Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sacred 2 PS3 review

Imagine you've just purchased a new state-of-the-art entertainment centre; one of those neat toys that has the TV pop-up when required and folds away when not, that hides away all the clutter. It comes, not fully assembled, but in a flat-pack. Taking it out you find no assembly instructions just a component list. Congratulations you've just experienced what it's like to play Sacred 2.

The story is simple - peace in the past, use of natural resources leads to conflict, semi-state of peace with more exploitation of said natural resource leads to bad things happening. At which point you the player enter and... well I've no idea why you're doing the things you do other than they appear in your to-do list. Probably saving the world, or destroying it if you take the Dark Side.

You know you're going to have a problem when you hit a snag at the opening screen - 'choose your character' it asks and presents you with a selection you can scroll through who each knock out a bit of spiel about who they are and what they do. So um what's the difference in their stats, what are their abilities? I mean this is an RPG isn't it? No information is given so I turn to the manual. I start to read the opening bits which gives some more information and then I mute the TV because the character on-screen just won't shut the **** up and repeat their spiel incessantly.

I don't find what I want at the start of the manual it's at the back, still no description on stats, but at least it gives me some indication of the types. I unmute and pick a Shadow Warrior. I'm now at the title screen and pick new game, then what type - campaign, offline and I'm in. What no tweaking of stats?

A little bit of blurb and I'm standing at my coffin and am instructed to talk to the guy who just raised me. He's disappointed and has his hench-person try to destroy me "Press X to attack" I'm told and that's the only tutorial you're going to get in this game. Guy is impressed says I might not be worthless after all and then disappears. Um okay weird behaviour.

Movement is standard, but the camera is restricted. You can have it high up above you looking straight down or low down hovering over your head looking forward. The former means missing out on the not-bad graphics, the latter means not being able to see anything. Pop a large sombrero on your hand and keep your head down and that's the field of vision you get. Apologists have stated that all RPGs are like this - yeah during the PS2 era. Others have suggested it's to keep the draw distance down, which doesn't pan out when you consider your field of view increases as you walk down hills and see the standard fog of distance implemented.

I head out of the tomb, inspect things (L1). Oo if I miss the target L1 draws a pretty circle on the ground around me, what does that do? Who knows? Things get automatically picked up and I get attacked. Note at this point no information of how to access the inventory is given. Back to the manual and it's R1. Up pops a radial menu, I know how these work, move the stick hit X. Nope move the stick to highlight and wait for it to open automatically; okay but not as quick.

I'm now zoomed in on my character standing where he is in a graveyard with a screen on my left. L2/R2 to tab through left and right, up and down to navigate. Hmm my current weapon has an odd graphic must mean it's equipped. I scroll through and find Combat Arts, all grayed out bar one that features the same symbol; so it's equipped? Where?

Now whether by luck or judgement this is the best combat design so far I've come across in an RPG. You're given four slots that correspond to the face buttons on the controller, however use L2 or R2 and you access different sets giving you 12 slots. Better yet they're not restricted so the prime slots aren't weapons, L2 slots combat arts, R2 slots potions you can put what you like in there; well except potions that are restricted but to their own slots mapped to the d-pad. But this means you can put your most-used weapon in X and your most used buff in Circle your ranged weapon in Triangle and, as it turns out, a created combination of combat arts in Square. It works and compared to so many other attempts at juggling the myriad of skills in console RPGs it works really well.

Sadly this is pretty much the only thing that does work. Let's take inventory. Equipped weapons appear at the top of the list, other weapons you've collected are listed below in order of 'goodness'; however armour on the other tab doesn't work like this with each type being grouped by order. Potions seem to be in order of collected, Relics in IDK alphabetical? It's all a bit of a mish-mash.

Now in the inventory screen you'll see an item say a weapon and you'll see it's name, how much it's worth, a number next to a pot (no idea), a set of stars (no idea) and possibly some empty squares. If you want to find out how much damage it does, which is kind of important, you need to bring up its details with R1. You get the same information as before but now you can see damage, a coloured bar (no idea) and some attributes that say something like "Attack  (Sword Weapons)" with the latter part in red. At this point it's guesswork and no the manual gives little help.

[from IGN]

I've worked out that the pot is weight as shown with a corresponding symbol at the bottom. The stars indicate rarity of some description and the coloured bar indicates the type of damage the weapon does - yellow is physical, red is fire etc. So a bar that's mostly yellow with some red at the end does mostly physical damage with some fire damage too. Exactly how much fire damage? Some.

The squares turn out to be forging tools, you can add runestones to boost stats. The attributes are skill dependent. So in this case if you have the skill Sword Weapons this weapon will give you a Attack bonus. How much? Get the skill and you'll find out. Oh and the bar across the bottom is the regeneration time for your combat arts which is affected by armour. So if your Flailing Slash takes 100 seconds to refresh and you've got a regen time of 90% it'll take 90 seconds, I think. See easy?

Note I say I've worked out, because neither the game nor the manual offers any help on this at all.

As you can imagine all this rummaging and rumination was taking some time and I was surprised to see the edges of the screen start to flash red. Backing out the menu with circle (no it doesn't tell you that either) I found I was being attacked.

Yep the game doesn't pause while you rummage through the menus. Now I'm fine with this it's not as if it's realistic to come across a Fire Elemental and ask it to hold on a sec while you change into your Fire-Proof Armour and it is supposed to allow network multiplayer, but Sacred 2 doesn't pause for anything - ANYTHING! Changing volume - no pause, reading the quest information that's just appeared -  no pause, calling up the PS3 XMB or Quit Game menu - no pause. Disconnecting the controller - no pause.

But that's okay as there are some areas with no enemies and once you find them you can teleport at will to them. Except you can't teleport back again. So you're near the end of a quest and the doorbell rings, you can't leave the game you'll die; you don't want to teleport out as you can't return except the hard way, and if you leave the game entirely it doesn't save the instance, but restarts you at the last respawn point you activated. You are screwed.

What's worse is that the PC owners complained and got a patch in April 09 to add a pause to single player campaigns. The console version was brought out in May and patched in June 09 with no pause.

Anyway back to the game, not that it stopped, and killing that last guy gained me a level. Yay I can has Ding! Learning my lesson I retreat to my enemy-less crypt and study the menus. Attributes seem straight forward.
It tells me my current value and R1 brings up details
[from IGN]
So I get a plus to this and a plus to that it shows my increase if I add another point. But how does that really affect things. I pick Strength, oh look no backsies once you've chosen there's no going back. Same with skills; pick the wrong one at the beginning and you're stuck with it forever. Okay again fine, you should have read the manual - I did, it didn't help. Has this affected my Combat Arts - nope. Seems I can only learn and increase those by memorising Runestones I can find or buy. Hey didn't I find one earlier yep. I use it and another Art activates yay.

[from IGN]

So there's a catch here. The higher the level of your Combat Art, the longer it takes to refresh. Now it seems there's a couple of ways around this. You can take a skill that directly applies to that Aspect and level it up. In the above picture if I wanted to lower the refresh time for the highlighted Darting Assault I could take one of the two Capricious Hunter Skills. Or I can forge the corresponding Runestone into a weapon or armour that has the appropriate slots; supposedly I get the bonus without the downtime. That is once I find a Blacksmith. Wait there's a BlackSmith skill that allows me to do the forging myself... it doesn't work.

No that's not "I can't discover how to make it work", that's plain out "doesn't work". It's a known bug that this game has been released and patched with an entire skill which you can select (and remember kiddies it's for keeps) that does not work. Think on that.

Okay I've gone into a lot of detail, but it's an RPG you expect that, but at the same time you expect at least some hint of how to play the fracking game. This gives none and as I hope I've shown every part of it is tied to every other part of it so it's difficult to bite off into easily digestable chunks.

The shame of it is there's a decent game buried under this interface and once you get to grips with it it's quite fun. If you mind the bugs and that apparently includes some mind-numbingly game-breaking ones it's a good game. But with support dropped so no new patches it's caveat emptor.

If you're willing to put in the time and effort you might get rewarded, if you want something you can drop into quickly and run with avoid like the plague.


Anonymous said...

I agree. This game is a cluster F*** right out of the box. It is counter-intuitive and I am surprised they didn't do a little bit of touching up on it.

It is fun though. The WORST part of it is definitely not being able to pause. Ridiculous!!!! Patch the game, add a pause for offline play for Christs sake.